At the event in New York City, the congresswoman had a brief conversation with a member of a local group working to advance a measure to remove criminal penalties associated with entheogenic plants and fungi such as psilocybin and ibogaine.
Aaron Genuth, organizing director for Decriminalize Nature New York City, told Marijuana Moment that he discussed the group’s efforts with Ocasio-Cortez in a photo line and said she was “extremely happy” about the group’s work.
The congresswoman “made sure to note that she’s working on it and introducing another measure in Congress,” he said. “It was a really good, positive encounter and confirmed that she’s extremely supportive of what we’re all doing.”
While the congresswoman didn’t offer many details in the brief chat, she said the legislation would be research-focused, according to Genuth. It seems likely that the proposal will be similar to an amendment to a spending bill that Ocasio-Cortez offered in June. That measure, which would have removed a rider in Fiscal Year 2020 spending legislation that she argued inhibits research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics, was ultimately rejected in a House floor vote. She could offer a similar amendment when Congress takes up 2021 appropriations legislation next spring.
In the months since the defeat of her initial measure, Ocasio-Cortez has placed an increasingly strong emphasis on the need for decriminalization. After initially calling for the removal of criminal penalties for possessing psychedelics specifically in a video taped for a conference of reform activists, she’s since voiced clear support for decriminalizing all drugs.
Decriminalize Nature’s objectives are focused on psychedelics decriminalization, and the movement has spread rapidly since Denver became the first city in the U.S. to decriminalize psilocybin in May, followed by a unanimous City Council vote in Oakland to remove criminal penalties for a wide-range of entheogenic substances.
Now, activists in nearly 100 localities across the country are considering advancing similar proposals. That includes New York City, where a recently established chapter has begun reaching out to local lawmakers to champion decriminalization.
Genuth said the group has received “really good responses from a couple City Council members, including at least one who is interested in putting up a measure.”
“We’ve been getting really good—pretty much universally good—responses from people we’ve been reaching out to on the local political and activism side,” he said.